Sizzle Simmer Sauté — Here come the veggies – joining a CSA

–by Jennifer Ruple

Jennifer Ruple

A few years ago, I overheard a couple of coworkers having a lively conversation about a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture program, they had just joined. I heard them talk about shares and half shares, drop-off locations, and who would pick up the box each week. I also heard them talk about their goals of eating healthier, ways to get more vegetables into their diets, trying new recipes and learning how to can food. I was intrigued by their discussion and wanted to know more about CSA.

A CSA program allows the consumer to invest in a farm by purchasing a share of its bounty and its risks of growing. In return, the consumer receives a box of fresh vegetables or farm goods straight from the grower each week or bi-weekly.

It sounded like fun. I’d be doing something good for myself and for the local farming community. I did worry a bit about just me and my husband being able to use up all the produce each week – wasting any of it would defeat the purpose. I ultimately decided to purchase a half-share with a friend, each getting a half a box every other week. That sounded like a reasonable amount to me.  

I accepted that this culinary endeavor could be a challenge at times, considering there are a handful of vegetables on the list that I’ve never prepared before such as beets, swiss chard and kohlrabi. The goals that I set for myself for this project are simple – eat more veggies, broaden my produce go-to list, and share ideas with others participating in a CSA or those who are simply enjoying the overflowing bounty at area farmers markets. If you have farm fresh recipes or ideas you’d like to share with me, please send them to I’d love to read them.

Tortellini with Asparagus and Peas

Tortellini with Asparagus and Peas
Tender and flavorful asparagus spears are paired with peas in this creamy pasta. Serve it as a main or side dish. For a lighter version, substitute half-and-half for the heavy cream; the result is just as tasty.
3 – 4 servings

9 ounces cheese tortellini
½ small onion, diced
1 cup peas
1 cup asparagus, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices cooked bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Cook tortellini according to instructions. Drain and set aside.

In a sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium. Add onions and cook until soft.

Add peas and asparagus and cook until they begin to soften. Add garlic and season with salt and pepper. Stir well and cook for about 5 minutes.

Pour in cream while stirring. Add cheese and stir until melted.

Gently stir in tortellini and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in cooked crumbled bacon and serve.
(Recipe by Jennifer Ruple)

Peas and Pancetta

Peas and Pancetta
Tender peas get a boost of flavor from pancetta and a shallot. The addition of fresh mint at the end infuses another level of flavor.
4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 ½ ounces pancetta, chopped
1 large shallot, minced
1 cup peas
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, julienned

In a medium sauté pan, add the pancetta and shallot. Cook over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta is browned, and the shallot is tender.

Add the peas, 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook over medium-low heat until peas are tender.

Stir in mint, taste for seasonings and serve hot.
(Recipe adapted from

Roasted Balsamic Beets

Roasted Balsamic Beets
I’ll admit, no beet had ever stepped foot in my kitchen until now. As I gazed over the pile of grungy orbs, I wondered how I would take them from their freshly “dug up from the earth” stage to the soft and beautifully colored ingredient that graces grocery store salad bars. Roasting was the solution.
4 servings

4-5 assorted medium-sized beets, cleaned, peeled and quartered
1 medium red onion, cut into 8 wedges
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons dried rosemary
1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Heat oven to 425 F. Drizzle vegetables with olive oil, divide in half, and wrap each half in foil. Place foil packets in a shallow baking pan.

Roast vegetables for about 30 minutes or until tender when pierced with a small knife.

Toss beets, onions, oil, rosemary, thyme and salt in same baking pan.

Roast for 20 more minutes. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over vegetables. Roast 5 minutes longer or until vinegar is the consistency of syrup. Gently toss vegetables before serving.
(Recipe adapted from

Roasted Beet Hummus

Roasted Beet Hummus
And to think, there are even more uses for these roasted babies. Feeling extra confident after positive results from the first beet recipe, I went for another.
6 servings

1 small roasted beet
15-ounce can chickpeas, mostly drained
Zest of 1 large lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 heaping tablespoons tahini
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Peel and quarter the beet and place it in a food processor. Process until only small bits remain.

Add remaining ingredients except for the olive oil and begin blending. Drizzle in olive oil while blending and continue until smooth.

Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. If consistency is too thick, add a bit of water.

Serve hummus with fresh vegetables, pita bread or pita chips.
(Recipe adapted from

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